Page images

instructive. It arises naturally in the minds of children still, and in accordance with the simplest childlike thought, the cosmologies of the North American Indians 1 and the South Sea Islanders 3 describe their flat earth arched over by the solid vault of heaven. Like thoughts are to be traced on through such details as the Zulu idea that the blue heaven is a rock encircling the earth, inside which are the sun, moon, and stars, and outside which dwell the people of heaven; the modern negro's belief that there is a firmament stretched above like a cloth or web; the Finnish poem which tells how Ilmarinen forged the firmament of finest steel, and set in it the moon and stars.3 The New Zealander, with his notion of a solid firmament, through which the waters can be let down on earth through a crack or hole from the reservoir of rain above, could well explain the passage in Herodotus concerning that place in North Africa where, as the Libyans said, the sky is pierced, as well as the ancient Jewish conception of a firmament of heaven, "strong as a molten mirror," with its windows through" which the rain pours down in deluge from the reservoirs above, windows which late Rabbinical literature tells us were made by taking out two stars.4 In nations where the theory of the firmament prevails, accounts of bodily journeys or spiritual ascents to heaven are in general meant not as figure, but as fact. Among the lower races, the tendency to localize the region of departed souls above the sky seems less strong than that which leads them to place their world of the dead on or below the Sarth's surface. Yet some well-marked descriptions of a savage

1 See Schoolcraft, 'Indian Tribes,'part i. pp. 269, 311 ; Smith, 'Virginia, in Pinkerton, voL xiii. p. 64; Waitz, vol. iii. p. 223 ; Squier, 'Abor. Mon. of N. Y.' p. 156; Cutlin, 'N. A. Ind.' vol. i. p. 180.

2 Mariner, 'Tonga Is.' vol. ii. p. 134; Turner, 'Polynesia,1 p. 103; Taylor, 'New Zealand,* pp. 101, 114, 256.

3 Callaway, 'Rel. of Amazulu,' p. 393; Burton, 'W. and W. fr.W. Afr.' p. 454 ; Castren, 'Finn. Myth.' p. 295.

4 Herodot iv. 168, see 185, and Rawlinson's note. See Smith's 'Die. of the Bible,' s. v. "firmament." Eisenmenger, part i. p. 408.

Heaven fire on record, the following, and others to be cited presently. Even some Australians seem to think of going up to the clouds at death, to eat and drink, and hunt and fish as here.1 In North America, the Winnebagos placed their paradise in the sky, where souls travel along that "Path of the Dead" which we call the Milky Way; and, working out the ever-recurring solar idea, the modern Iroquois speak of the soul going upward and westward, till it comes out on the beauteous plains of heaven, with people and trees and things as on earth.2 In South America the Guarayos, representatives in some sort of the past condition of the Guarani race, worship Tamoi the Grandfather, the Ancient of Heaven; he was their first ancestor, who lived among them in old days and taught them to till the ground; then rising to heaven in the east he disappeared, having promised to be the helper of his people on earth, and to transport them, when they died, from the top of a sacred tree into another life, where they shall find their kindred and have hunting in plenty, and possess all that they possessed on earth; therefore it is that the Guarayos adorn their dead, and burn their weapons for them, and bury them with their faces to the East, whither they are to go.s Among American peoples whose culture rose to a higher level than that of these savage tribes, we hear of the Peruvian Heaven, the glorious "Upper World," and of the temporary abode of Aztec warriors on heavenly wooded plains, where the sun shines when it is night on earth, wherefore it was a Mexican saying that the sun goes at evening to lighten the dead.4 What thoughts of heaven were in the minds of the old Aryan poets, this hymn from the Rig-Veda may show :—

1 Eyre, 'Australia,' vol. ii. p. 367.

! Schoolcraft, 'Indian Tribes,' part iv. p. 210 (but compare part v. p. 403); Morgan, 'Iroquois,'p. 176; Sproat, 'Savage Life,' p. 209.

8 D'Orbigny, 'L'Homme Americans,' vol. ii. pp. 319, 328; see Maitius, vol. i. p. 4S5 (Jumanas).

4 J. G. Miiller, p. 403; Brasseur, 'Mexique,' vol. iii. p. 496; Kingsborougli, 'Mexico,' Cod. Letellier, fol. 20.

"Where there is eternal light, in the world where the sun is placed,

in that immortal imperishable world place mo, O Soma! Where king Vaivasvata reigns, where tho secret place of heaven is,

where these mighty waters are, there make me immortal! Where life is free, in the third heaven of heavens, where the worlds

are radiant, there mako me immortal! Whore wishes and desires are, where the place of the bright sun is,

where there is freedom and delight, there make mo immortal! Where there is happiness and delight, where joy and pleasure reside,

where the desires of our desire are attained, there make mo

immortal!" 1

In such bright vague thoughts from the poet's religion of nature, or in cosmic schemes of ancient astronomy, with their artificial glories of barbaric architecture exaggerated in the skies, or in the raptures of mystic vision, or in the calmer teaching of the theological doctrine of a future life, descriptions of realms of blessed souls in heaven are to be followed through the religions of the Brahman, the Buddhist, the Parsi, the later Jew, the Moslem, and the Christian.

For the object, not of writing a handbook of religions, but of tracing the relation which the religion of savages bears to the religion of cultured nations, these details are enough to show the general line of human thought regarding the local habitations of departed souls. It seems plain from the most cursor}' inspection of these various localizations, however much we may consider them as inherited or transmitted from people to people in the complex movements of theological history, that they are at any rate not derived from any single religion accepted among ancient or primeval men. They bear evident traces of independent working out in the varied definition of the region of souls, as on earth among men, on earth in some distant country, below the earth, above or beyond the sky. Similar ideas of this kind are found in different lands, but this simi

1 Max Muller, 'Chips,' vol. i. p. 46; Roth in 'Zcitschr. d. Deutsch. Morgi'iil. Gus.' vol. iv. p. 127.

liirity seems in large measure due to independent recurrence of thoughts so obvious. Not less is independent fancy compatible with the ever-recurring solar myth in such ideas, placing the land of Death in the land of Evening or of Night, and its entrance in the gates of Sunset. Barbaric poets of many a distant land must have gazed into the West to read the tale of Life and Death, and tell it of Man. If, however, we look more closely into the stages of intellectual history to which these theories of the Future World belong, it will appear that the assignment of the realm of departed souls to the three great regions, Earth, Hades, Heaven, has not been uniform. Firstly, the doctrine of a land of souls on Earth belongs widely and deeply to savage culture, but dwindles in the barbaric stage, and survives but feebly into the mediaeval. Secondly, the doctrine of a subterranean Hades holds as huge a place as this in savage belief, and has held it firmly along the course of higher religious, where, however, this under-world is looked on less and less as the proper abode of the dead, but rather as the dismal place of purgatory and hell. Lastly, the doctrine of a Heaven, floored upon a firmament, or placed in the upper air, seems in early savage belief less common than the other two, but yields to neither of them in its vigorous retention by the thought of modern nations. These local theories appear to be taken, firstly and mostly, in the most absolute literal sense, and although, under the influence of physical science, much that was once distinctly-meant philosophy has now passed among theologians into imagery and metaphor, yet at low levels of knowledge the new canons of interpretation find little acceptance, and even in modern Europe the rude cosmology of the lower races in no small measure retains its place.

Turning now to consider the state of the departed in these their new homes, we have to examine the definitions of the Future Life which prevail through the religions of mankind. In these doctrines there is much similarity caused by the spreading of established beliefs into new countries, and also much similarity that is beyond what such transmission can account for. So there is much variety due to local colour and circumstance, and also much variety beyond the reach of such explanation. The main causes of both similarity and variety seem to lie far deeper, in the very origin and inmost meaning of the doctrines. The details of the future life, among the lower races and upwards, are no heterogeneous mass of arbitrary fancies. Classified, they range themselves naturally round central ideas, in groups whose correspondence seems to indicate the special course of their development. Amongst the pictures into which this world has shaped its expectations of the next, two great conceptions are especially to be discerned. The one is that the future life is, as it were, a reflexion of this; in a new world, perhaps of dreamy beauty, perhaps of ghostly gloom, men are to retain their earthly forms and their earthly conditions, to have around them their earthly friends, to possess their earthly property, to carry on their earthly occupations. The other is that the future life is a compensation for this, where men's conditions are re-allotted as the consequence, and especially as the reward or punishment, of their earthly life. The first of these two ideas we may call (with Captain Burton) the " continuance-theory," contrasting with it the second as the " retribution-theory." Separately or combined, these two doctrines are the keys of the subject, and by grouping typical examples under their two headings, it will be possible to survey systematically man's most characteristic schemes of his life beyond the grave.

To the doctrine of Continuance belongs especially the savage view of the spirit-land, that it is as the dream-land where the souls of the living so often go to visit the souls of the dead. There the soul of the dead Karen, with the souls of his axe and cleaver, builds his house and cuts his rice; the shade of the Algonquin hunter hunts souls of beaver and elk, walking on the souls of his snow-shoes over the soul of the snow7; the fur-wrapped Kamchadal

« PreviousContinue »